Re: Naming places

#1
Hi, I'm not sure whether to ask this question here or in "Assistance requests", but here I go.

I have a ton of places/cultures/houses/allegiances in my Sword&Sorcery Fantasy world to name, most of which never get mentioned, maybe once. But sometimes I need to pull up a name for a throwaway and I struggle so hard because I want to initially settle on something that sounds good enough to be believable and not rewrite a dozen times.
So far, I most often just used one or two words in the language which fits the culture of the place I'm naming and try to squash them together until it sounds decent. But sometimes I just can't come up with anything.

Do you have tips for naming that doesn't come off too cheap? Especially appreciated are guides for coming up with names that all fit a certain feeling or theme. I don't like lifting words straight from the latin dictionary, btw.

Re: Naming places

#2
I am not sure there is any sort of guide to this...

All I could do is give you a quick run through as to how I deal with names :)
For places and general names, I take a word I like or a meaning I want the name to convey, then I choose a language in Google translate and run it through a couple of times, by using synonyms. Change a few letters, add or remove some and you are done. 

Now the hard part is coming with names for characters you are going to invest in. For those, I could use a name which has stuck for some reason or mash a few letters until you find something that sounds good to you. 

It's not much, but should be good for a starting point. I guess... Works for me might work for you. 

Re: Naming places

#3
Use a fantasy name generator site to get a whole bunch and choose the best.

Or just use whatever the town does as a name. For example, a mining town could a be Axelpick, fortress could be Stonelock, or use an already existing town and add New to it. It might sound cheesy, but a lot of irl towns where actually named like that.

Re: Naming places

#4
One approach, which I believe a lot of fantasy writers have used, is to have a certain fictional culture be closely based on a historical culture (such as Medieval England, or the old Roman Empire, or Feudal Japan), and they find a document showing lots of place names that were being used in that part of the world in a past era . . . and then they shamelessly swipe some of those names. 

If you're recycling the name of a relatively small and obscure spot on the map, you might keep it exactly the way it is in reality. For example, how many people know or care that once upon a time, in Herefordshire in England, there was a little village (no longer in existence) called "Edvin Ralph"? If you swipe that as the name of a town in a fantasy-world culture loosely based on Medieval England, very few people will know just where you got that from, and even fewer will complain that the name simply isn't original enough!  :)  

Or, if you think the "Ralph" part looks too familiar (or too silly) to please your readers, you could simply alter one letter, and have your heroes be visiting the town of "Edvin Galph." As far as I know, no town or village, anywhere in the real world, has ever been called by exactly that name. (A little Googling didn't turn up any hits for it.)

On the other hand, if you decide to swipe (or "be inspired by") the name of a more famous real-world place, you will almost certainly want to make a few changes to at least one syllable. (Unless you're simply writing an "alternate history" story.) For instance, Dave Duncan wrote a bunch of novels about "The King's Blades," an order of elite swordsmen who were loyal to the Kings of Chivial. The nation of Chivial was depicted as being very much like England around the time of the Renaissance (and Duncan freely admitted that his fictional King Ambrose's personality was closely modeled on Henry the Eighth), allowing for the fact that magic was a thriving industry which could make a lot of things easier for those people who could afford to pay the price that sorcerers charged for a spell to heal grave injuries or to teach someone a foreign language in a matter of minutes. (But the typical peasant family didn't have that kind of money, so they struggled along without.) The capital city of Chivial was obviously an analog of London, but Duncan chose to name it "Grandon." That way, it was an original name for a city (as far as I know), but still had that "English feel" to it. 

One advantage to the "just change a letter here or a syllable there" approach is that it doesn't require you to make any real study of a new language every time you want to have your characters cross an international border. Since this is fantasy instead of "painstakingly researched historical fiction," the names you end up with don't need to make sense in any real-world language. If, for instance, you take the name of a historical Russian village, and modify the first two letters, and the result doesn't mean anything in real-world Russian, you can just shrug (if anyone bothers to complain) and say that the characters in your fantasy world don't speak real-world Russian, they speak some other vaguely similar language instead, so why should the names be expected to make perfect sense to a Russian? 

Re: Naming places

#5

Seerica Wrote: Or just use whatever the town does as a name. For example, a mining town could a be Axelpick, fortress could be Stonelock, or use an already existing town and add New to it. It might sound cheesy, but a lot of irl towns where actually named like that.

This.

Naming is an opportunity. I'd rather convey something than sound cool. Both'd be sweet.

I associate names like Winsdale as some place in England with lots of grass, sunshine, and furry creatures.
A name like Wondoan - somewhere dry, probably. 
Yarra Yarra - easy to remember, a bit Tribal.
Ferrisshire - well now I'll remember its near the big iron mine.
South Kalbry - ...on Kalbry river, on the south bank
New Hafton - settled by folks from the old country
Placid Slopes - not exactly a fortress then is it
Eagle's Rise - the name of my family's little hobby farm irl
Chekhov City - Chekhov must be a nice guy, right?
Finley's Gambit - dangerous or strategically notable; and now I wonder who Finley was

When it comes to picking something that sounds cool though... I nick the style of places named for their aussie aboriginal word(s). Yarra, Wollangong, Wandoan, Taldora, Duaringa, Wagga Wagga... good inspiration. Then for the more "civilised" places, I pick a style from central europe or italy. At least, I try to.

The pity is that I can't pack as much meaning as I'd like into a name. If I call it Finley's Gambit, I can't call it East Crag Pass which might have been more useful. I can have Finley's Gambit located on East Crag Pass, but then people may have to remember two names.

Re: Naming places

#6
the_Enn_Gee Wrote: Especially appreciated are guides for coming up with names that all fit a certain feeling or theme. I don't like lifting words straight from the latin dictionary, btw.

Seerica Wrote: Use a fantasy name generator site to get a whole bunch and choose the best.

For the sake of something that "sounds right", out of curiosity, I made three lists of bits of words such that they could tack together in most combinations. Then had a script pick at random. I was going for a vaguely aboriginal-sounding town names. Results... as expected. Anyway, here's what it spat out, and the lists it was made of.

The hitch is this: its not very useful, and even if it was highly sophisticated I doubt it'd be any better than a few minutes looking a map and switching a couple of letters as Lorendiac said.